One of the most important aspects of the job search process—and one that job seekers frequently overlook—is that a key to getting an interview is pleasing the HR representative or recruiter. No, this doesn't mean sending flowers or chocolates with your resume. It means doing things that make the recruiter's job easier. In other words, helping them to help you. Here are a few critical points:
1. Be clear and concise. This applies to both your written and verbal communications. For e-mails, resumes, and cover letters, be sure there are no typos and the content is written in a professional manner. For phone messages and conversations, speak clearly, be sure to provide all the important information (phone number, e-mail, times of availability), and, for phone interviews, be prepared with some examples of your work accomplishments and history, and job skills. Writing them down on paper ahead of time will help you, as will having a copy of your resume handy.
2. If you are changing careers, or transitioning from a military or government position to the commercial sector (or vice versa), remember that certain terms and definitions might not be easily translatable. Be aware of these examples, and have translations ready. For instance, in the military you might have been a Commander or Officer. What is the equivalent role in the private sector? Manager? Director? Let the recruiter know. Also, it's important to show how your skills are transferable to the new position. Maybe you've never worked in sales, but if your old job included customer interaction, presentations, and strategy development you might be more qualified for a position than your resume shows.
3. Don't give them reasons to reject you. Remember, an important role of the recruiter/hiring manager is to eliminate unqualified prospects. Make sure you don't meet the requirements for rejection. Do you have embarrassing information on the web? Companies routinely check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sources as part of their review process. Do your own online search of yourself ahead of time and see what comes up. If there's anything that might turn a prospective employer away, remove it.
4. Enter the digital age. If you don't already have superior computer skills, get them. Companies are requiring more and more that their employees at all levels, new graduate to CxO, be computer-savvy. Interviews are being conducted via video conference. Twitter and Facebook are being used to distribute information. The PDA is an indispensable tool in today's workplace. In the coming years, those who aren't comfortable with extensive technology use are likely to be left in the dust, career-wise.
Trends and Facts
- Some companies now receive so many resumes via e-mail; it will take them years to sort them all. Stand out by also sending a hard copy whenever possible, addressed to a specific manager.
- Don't let high unemployment rates and high resume volumes discourage you. Many jobs don't get filled simply because the wrong people are applying. Make sure you apply for the right jobs.
- Companies are still hiring. Enterprise-Rent-A-Car hires 8,000 recent college graduates per year, and Coca-Cola has a 5% annual turnover (approximately 4,500 new employees worldwide per year).
- Many companies still prefer to do their recruiting the old-fashioned way: via job fairs and ads in newspapers and trade magazines. Odds are if a company is at a job fair, they are actively recruiting.